2007-07-27 / Columnists

The Progressive

Economic Issues
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

In his weekly radio addresses, President Bush often mentions the economic miracle our nation is enjoying. Employers appear to be employing more workers. Inflation is low. Corporate profits are enjoying recordbreaking levels. All economic indicators are positive. Republican candidates for the Presidency in 2008 call our economy the best-kept secret success story. Many political observers feel the GOP can win in 2008 if the Democrats select an unappealing candidate, the troops have been withdrawn for the most part from Iraq, and the economy is as strong as it is now. I concur.

At the same time, there are economic weak points caused by the Republican philosophy of weak central government, low taxes for the more prosperous, and little government regulation. None of us would prefer higher taxation, although we are cognizant of the truth that taxation is a necessary byproduct of an ordered and just society. It is also the belief of most Americans that the more prosperous have an obligation to ensure that an adequate and decent health care delivery system is established, that our beloved country is secure from foreign threats, and that income differences are not excessive. All Americans should be free from want of decent shelter, nutrition, and an adequate education.

Income inequality is now at the level it was at the beginning of the last century. This is not acceptable. We can see both legal and undocumented immigrant labor work under conditions that are not acceptable for a civilized society. Our immigration policy makes labor a commodity to be used and abused and not viewed as a valuable resource. We often hear of industrial accidents. Our media does not report many industrial accidents.

Free trade is a noble and just objective if properly monitored, and is fair for all people, both the foreigners we trade with and the American worker, consumer, and industry. We should not have to accept products that are made by workers in foreign lands who are imprisoned, tortured, underage, or cannot organize labor unions. We also cannot accept products that are either unsafe or otherwise a threat to our health.

This summer, we are once again reminded of the weak national electrical grid that powers America. Blackouts that endanger our health and safety will become more frequent if we do not resolve this energy problem. Massive blackouts have a negative effect on the economy. How has deregulation helped our electrical grid? Consumers all across the nation are complaining of higher electric, gas and water rates. Where is our government in Washington? Our infrastructure needs repair and renovation. The recent steam line explosion in midtown makes this fact obvious.

Our health care delivery system is a disgrace that is discussed throughout the world. It is noteworthy that some corporate leaders are now advocating that the government enter into a universal health care system.

We rely on foreigners to watch our children, care for our aged, keep our gardens tidy, medicate us, clean our homes and apartments, serve meals in restaurants, and, as one actor said in a film, though more crudely, service us sexually; yet we refuse to see those immigrants as people. All who enter these shores to work need to have a path to full citizenship. Not all are saints, but all have the need to belong. If they are cut, they bleed- the words of the Bard bastardized but appropriate.

Our economic miracle is one that needs fine-tuning and government can be a catalyst for a miracle, based on justice and fair play. Terrorists wish to wreck our economy. We can also wreck our economy, with the violence and upheaval that economic inequality and despair causes in the minds of many of our residents.

History teaches us that at times of great income inequality, upheaval occurs. Let us resolve not to allow terrorists to enjoy watching us fight each other because of our economic weak points.

In the Democratic Party there appears to be one candidate who can address the economic needs of all Americans. He is Senator John Edwards. He is attacked because of his wealth and his use of his wealth for personal reasons. It is true that the Republicans worship wealth except when the opposing party's candidate is willing to use his wealth in a conspicuous manner. What is missing in their attacks is that the issues Edwards makes the centerpiece of his campaign may be the major issue for us this decade: How is the nation going to become more just and fair? We should all thank him for making this a part of the presidential campaign.

On another point, I would like to address the reader who wrote a letter to The Wave responding to my column regarding the boycott of Israel by trade union organizations in Great Britain: you miss an important point and that is that it is not the government or the British people boycotting Israeli contracts. There are many people around the globe who are upset with some of Israel's actions as a nation. Private anyone. I do not approve of one British trade union's boycott because it is a boycott of academic professions which should remain in contact and discuss the problems in that part of the world. Boycotts are appropriate vehicles to initiate change when needed. Sugar boycotts in Great Britain ended the British slave trade, for example. Although I do not approve of the current boycott, it is not anti- Semitic to object to some of Israel's acts

Great Britain has always been an important ally for Israel, as have France, Germany, Italy, and most of the European Union. Many prominent members of the newly formed governments in Great Britain and France are Jewish. Criticism of a friend does not generally mean the critic is hostile or begging Muslim favor. It is also true that critics of Israel or the United States do not necessarily approve or condone Islamic extremists.

This is a red herring in order to stop friends of Israel or the United States from criticizing human rights violations. Many criticize torture and civil rights violations by the American government both here and abroad. Does this make them anti-American? Do they condone terrorism? Of course, not! As one prominent Italian politician noted, neither Israel nor Palestinians are right or wrong in their love of their land - the problem is they both have legitimate claims. In my past column, I mentioned how the common market is believed to have maintained peace in Europe. Israel and her neighbors are in negotiation over water distribution issues. Peace may be achieved through a just and fair distribution of wealth in the Middle East. In recent days, Israel has made some dramatic gestures towards the Palestinians. It needs to make gestures to all the political factions that represent the Palestinians. We should all hope that the gestures are recognized. Economics may be the key to a solution.

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